For the past 155 years, the humble 1¢ brown coin has diligently soldiered on through trillions of sales, helping Canadians to a world of exact change. As the price of bread has gone from five pennies to five hundred, the poor penny has become increasingly ostracized and cumbersome. Now officially declared an expensive nuisance, its demise is complete: since Feb. 4, the Royal Canadian Mint has stopped issuing the penny altogether.
Citizens nationwide are unceremoniously dumping kilos upon kilos of the maple leaf-bearing coin at every grocery store, bank, and charity box they can find, the pennies all part of the 34 billion minted since 1858. Chilliwack’s TD Canada Trust at Yale Road and Young Road is sending $500 in pennies to the central bank every week. That’s about 150 kg of the copper-plated penny from this branch alone. There’s no telling how many more coins are coming in to the city’s other dozens of banks, credit unions, and cash stores. The pennies are all headed back to the Mint, where the metal will be recycled.
As always, people returning pennies to a bank must roll them. Otherwise, one can request a bank bag that holds $25 worth of pennies – fill the bag to the brim, and bring it in. And according to the Currency Act, customers can’t use more than 25 of the coins in any single purchase – although many retailers are overlooking this technicality in the current penny frenzy.
The hassle of rolling a coin that’s not worth its own metal means that people are donating a lot of pennies to various charity drives around town. The Chilliwack Community Services collected almost $4,000 in pennies (nearly half a million coins) for their Penny for Your Tots campaign. Promontory Heights Elementary School students collected 132,000 of the coin for Free the Children in late November. And the TD branch at Yale and Young has received nearly $300 in pennies for the B.C. Children’s Hospital.
With the penny gone, cash sales are being rounded to the nearest nickel. So, giving a $5 bill for a $4.98 purchase won’t provide you with any change. But because the nickel is still ready to leap into action, the odds of receiving a few cents more, or a few cents less, on a purchase are exactly the same. A final, after-tax price of $1.01 and $1.02, for example, will be rounded down to a buck. $1.03 to $1.07 turn into $1.05, and prices of $1.08 and $1.09 become a loonie and a dime.
Neither the TD Bank, nor local grocer Hofstede’s Country Barn, has noticed an imbalance in their accounting. And since a huge proportion of all economic transactions are electronic or by cheque – which are still done to the nearest 1¢ – the impact on people’s wallets should be, well, no more than a few pennies. Or none at all, if one’s transactions are all by card. Pennies will remain legal tender indefinitely, but it’s up businesses to decide whether or not to accept them.
It now costs 60% more to make the one-cent coin, than the coin is worth, so a penny saved is no longer a penny earned. The government calculated that by not manufacturing the penny, Canadian tax-payers will save $11 million annually. But can we really put a price on historic email@example.com twitter.com/WriteInBC